Tag Archives: Ukraine War

A Perfect Storm: Putin’s Threats of Nuclear War Added to the Energy and Food Crises

The world is in a mess with the war in Ukraine causing a double crisis – in food and energy – while America is falling back fifty years with the Supreme Court repeal of Roe vs. Wade, not to mention the gun situation, with Congress taking a timid step forward and the Supreme Court (again!) taking a big step back. Expect the Supreme Court to deal a death blow to LGBTQ rights and to environmental protection next. 

And this morning, when I woke up, I knew I had to write about it – either the disaster in America or the consequences of the war which are being felt worldwide. Already, the rising cost of living has led to 12 days of protest in Ecuador, and that’s just the start of many more similar protests around the world. So I decided that the most pressing and catastrophic issue was the war in Ukraine that is impacting all of us, here in Europe, in America, everywhere. 

Something needs to be done about it, and something that works, not like sanctions: They don’t work, they simply act as a boomerang. Indeed, so far, Putin has been the ultimate beneficiary of sanctions as they have raised oil prices, enabling him to fill up his coffers and wage the war unimpeded.

So here is what I wrote and that was published by Impakter today: 

How to Address the World Food and Energy Crisis and Putin’s Threats of Nuclear War

The G7 starting today is likely to recommend better “coordination of sanctions” but that is not the solution, a different policy response is needed

The G7 started this morning in a castle in Bavaria and the Ukraine war and sanctions are obviously on its agenda. In advance of this meeting of western leaders to which Russia is no longer invited since 2014 as retaliation for annexing Crimea, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would be “in the coming months” transferring missiles to Belarus capable of transporting tactical nuclear weapons.

To be noted: That country headed by Lukashenko, a long-time friend of Putin’s, located on the northern border of Ukraine, is uniquely well placed to launch missiles on Ukraine’s major northern cities, Kyiv and Lviv. His announcement was punctually followed by bombs falling on Kyiv last night and damaging two buildings, causing two wounded.

In other words: Putin is telling the G7 that he means business. The implied meaning: Once Russia has taken the Donbas, it will turn to the rest of Ukraine, and will take Kyiv, no matter what – even if it takes a nuclear attack.

Does he really mean it? Who knows, opinions differ, but one should clearly take him seriously, more seriously than Merkel and other western leaders, including Trump, have ever done. In that case, what is the solution, and how to move forward?

The expectation is the G7 will make recommendations for better “coordination of the sanctions against Russia”. That would include, of course, the 6th package of EU sanctions, the one especially aimed at Russian oil exports. Because, as we all know, sanctions don’t work unless they are watertight – certainly not the case with this last set of European sanctions that – under pressure from Hungary’s Orban, another one of Putin’s friends – is anything but watertight. In fact, it will become fully applicable only two years from now.

Why the G7 should stop talking about sanctions

Any call from the G7 for “better coordination of sanctions” is pure nonsense, pap to pacify an increasingly angry public.

Because anger is palpable, we are all angry at the rise in energy and food prices, here in Europe, in America and elsewhere – see the problems in Ecuador where indigenous people have protested the rise in the cost of living by putting the capital under siege for 12 days. The situation there has turned into a government crisis and the president is likely to be deposed by the parliament.

And that is only the start. Watch what happens when the food crisis gets in full swing, as some 27 million tons of grain planned for export is stuck in Ukraine. It is believed that up to 4 million tons of grain and oilseeds are in the terminals and on ships stranded in ports, in particular in Odessa, Ukraine’s main port on the Black Sea. And nobody knows quite how to unblock that situation, with the Russian navy camped in front of Odessa and the sea full of Ukrainian mines. 

And then there’s the energy crisis. With the spike in oil and gas prices, the biggest winner has been Putin despite the sanctions, whether coming from the US or Europe. 

I have deliberately bolded the above sentence because that is the main point here: Sanctions have created a situation that has benefited Putin, filling Russia’s coffers with money and permitting him to happily go on waging his war. 

In fact, the ruble has never been stronger – hitting the highest level in 7 years despite the sanctions – whereas the normal expectation would be that a country at war sees its currency weakened. Nothing like that happened because Russia is a petro-state, and if the price of petrol goes up, it gains. And that’s it, pure and simple.

Khodorkovsky, a Russian oil tycoon and former Putin friend, now one of his staunchest critics, has no doubts: As he recently told Politico, sanctions don’t work, “Europe is sabotaging itself”. 

What should the EU have done? In his view, it should have secured alternative supplies before moving ahead with an embargo, or even taken another approach entirely, simply imposing tariffs on Russian energy rather than an outright ban. 

He’s not the only one who argues like this: several experts from the Bruegel think tank have pointed out that it would have been smarter to impose tariffs since redirecting oil to other countries with the infrastructure currently in place would have been difficult for Moscow. This would have forced Russian energy companies to absorb the higher export costs to Europe, reducing their margins and ultimately cutting into Moscow’s military budget.

The point is this: By “drilling a hole in its own finances”, Europe has become weaker and less able to finance the purchase of more weapons for Ukraine.

Khodorkovsky has no doubts: “The problem is that current Western politicians have never held talks with a gangster,” he said, referring to Putin. “You can only start negotiating with him when he feels like he’s in a weaker position.”

And the sanctions have been a clear boomerang. “How much has the West lost in revenue by introducing all kinds of energy sanctions? $100 billion, $200 billion?” he said. “Had Ukraine got at least $50 billion worth of weapons instead of $10 billion, the situation would be completely different now — without any energy sanctions being introduced.”

The EU revised downward its growth predictions for this year by around 1 percent in April as a consequence of the war in Ukraine that has so far cost some €160 billion, according to recent GDP estimates from the International Monetary Fund. Meanwhile, the EU  has set up several tranches of financial aid, now amounting to €2 billion toward the purchase of arms for Ukraine.

Those numbers speak for themselves: One has to wonder what our political leaders were thinking.

If not more sanctions, what should be done?

Go to Impakter to read the rest, but I’ll give you a hint: We should use market forces against Putin, flood the oil market to lower energy prices. To find out more about this simple solution, click here.

Let me know what you think!

Advertisement

Comments Off on A Perfect Storm: Putin’s Threats of Nuclear War Added to the Energy and Food Crises

Filed under politics

The Evidence is In: The Spike in Oil Prices Helps Putin Finance His War in Ukraine

This week I’ve been pretty busy! A couple of days ago, I co-authored an article on Odessa with my friend Richard Seifman, an American diplomat and World Bank health expert, you can find the article here: Odessa: A City Crucial Now and Not Just for Ukraine

And now I just published a new article on Impakter, all the truth about sanctions, exploring why they don’t work as expected:

How Russia is Financing the War in Ukraine

With the hike in fuel prices caused by the war, Russia has been the main beneficiary, able to finance its war with an extra $100 billion earned from oil and gas exports

Ukrainian searching for victims after a bombing (screenshot)

Historically, sanctions have rarely if ever worked. US history of sanctions is an eye-opener and shows that most have never achieved their intended goal. Countries hit by sanctions have always found roundabout ways to mitigate sanctions or even cancel their impact with clever countermoves. And, unsurprisingly, it’s beginning to look like this umpteenth round of sanctions against Russia – we are up to round number five of EU sanctions now, the latest target being coal imports from Russia – is unlikely to help stop the war.

Bloomberg Economics experts have found that, as they put it, despite multiple rounds of sanctions, there are “plenty of signs that Russia is finding ways to prop up its economy”.  Russia, they have calculated, will earn about $320 billion from energy exports this year, up by more than a third from 2021. Russian oil is snapped up in Asia and the ruble is back to the level it was before the start of the war in Ukraine.

At the same time, Russian coal exports banned in Europe are finding their way in China: Reportedly there are several Chinese firms buying Russian coal with local currency.

In other words, from an economic standpoint, Russia is the great beneficiary of the war, having earned an extra $100 billion in just one month, enough to carry on with the invasion.  At least, so far but things could change if the West changes its policies and reviews its approach to sanctions. Because the evidence is now in: 

Sanctions do not work. Putin’s wily war plans: A clever way to finance the regardless of sanctions

One may well wonder what exactly were Putin’s real aims when he invaded the whole of Ukraine six weeks ago.

Read the rest on Impakter, click here.

Let me know what you think!

Comments Off on The Evidence is In: The Spike in Oil Prices Helps Putin Finance His War in Ukraine

Filed under Economics, politics

What Makes the Ukraine War Unique

What makes the Ukraine war unique is…No, not its brutality, that, alas, is nothing new. It’s horrendous and criminal on the part of Putin, but he’s done this before, in Chechnya and in Syria. What is new and unique about this war is Zelinsky, an extraordinary leader who’s using communication means in a way never used before by any leader at war (at least as far as I know!)

Check out my latest article, just published on Impakter:

Ukraine War: Unlike Any Other Thanks To Zelinsky

Ukraine’s President Zelinsky has embarked on a virtual tour of all the major parliaments in the West, further isolating Russia in public opinion

Claude Forthomme – Senior Editor

March 23, 2022

in Politics & Foreign Affairs, Society

The sanctions are doing their work, more are being prepared in Europe and the Biden administration is reportedly preparing sanctions targeting more than 300 members of the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament as soon as tomorrow. But the impact of sanctions is slow and carries a price: The blowback is inevitable, as Russia’s economy collapses and major trading partners, especially in Europe, are hurt. By contrast, the political work of Ukraine President Zelinsky is highly visible, hurts no one and probably contributes far more effectively than sanctions in isolating Russia in public opinion and turning it into a pariah state.

It is in fact extraordinary to see how the war in Ukraine is unfolding. On the ground, we are witnessing the tragedies of war that we hadn’t seen in Europe since Sarajevo and the Balkan War – in particular,  the atrocities against civilians. They are so extensive that one might well speak of genocide: For that is what is happening now in Mariupol, the southern port city bombed for weeks, unable to evacuate its inhabitants because of Russian shelling.

Today, as I write, 100,000 people are trapped there, in a city that is now 80% destroyed, and left without food, water, heating, as per Putin’s ruthless and brutal model of invasion that aims at the civilian population since his army is unable to win outright by military means. The Ukrainians are trying to negotiate safe passage to evacuate Mariupol’s people, but for now, with little success, only 7,000 were evacuated yesterday. That something like this could happen in the 21st century in Europe is both astonishing and unconscionable. It’s a throwback to the darkest moments of World War II.  

Yet, on another level, we are witnessing something that is entirely new in warfare. I cannot recall in recent History anything like what Zelinsky is doing, a leader engaged in an ongoing war, and talking to parliamentarians around the world.

Zelinsky’s tour of parliaments

Today, Zelinsky spoke to the Japanese Diet and the French parliament.

He used his address to Japan this morning to make two major points:

  • He slammed the United Nations, saying the UN had failed over the conflict in his country and reforms were needed, calling for Japan to put more pressure on Russia. He told the lawmakers via video: “Neither the United Nations nor the UN Security Council have functioned. Reforms are needed. We need a tool to preemptively ensure global security. Existing international organizations are not functioning for this purpose, so we need to develop a new, preemptive tool that can actually stop invasions.”
  • Recalling the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster that haunts the Japanese, he warned of the dangers his own country is facing from Russian attacks on nuclear plants and the site of the Chernobyl meltdown; Russia turned that into a war zone,” he said, warning that years would be needed to assess possible environmental effects of Russia’s occupation of Chernobyl; indeed, this is the first time that a country like Ukraine that depends on 15 nuclear reactors to produce its electricity has become a theater of war, raising concerns about world nuclear safety.

Curious about what he said to the French parliament and where all this is leading? Read the rest on Impakter, click here 

Comments Off on What Makes the Ukraine War Unique

Filed under politics

My Latest About the War in Ukraine

I apologize to all my readers: For four months now I have stopped reposting my articles here and I’ve been swept up in work, following news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – what future historians will no doubt call the Ukraine War.

To be honest, the war was no surprise, I saw it coming for several months now – as no doubt did the Pentagon and all the world’s military experts: the long build-up of Russian forces around Ukraine – fully 150,000 troops – could only mean Putin intended the invasion; in fact, he’s been very clear about it: He wants nothing else but the eradication of the state of Ukraine! Leaving forty-four million people with no choice but war.

I had written several articles about the coming war, you can find them here along with other articles I wrote over the last four months. My latest is an article on the impact of the war on Ukraine and Russian wheat exports, written in collaboration with Richard Seifman, an American diplomat and former World Bank senior health adviser; he wrote for us numerous articles about the Covid pandemic – we are both on the One Health Initiative Advisory Board.

And now I’m closely watching the news and updating the following article every day and whenever something important happens. Check it out regularly for the latest updates, here it is, for today March 8: 

**LIVE UPDATES** Ukraine-Russia War: The News as it Develops

Impakter kept a close watch on the war as it broke the first 2 days and continues here with a DAILY UPDATE

Impakter Editorial Boardby Impakter Editorial Board

March 8, 2022

in Politics & Foreign AffairsSociety

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

BREAKING NEWS ALERT As Russia launched a blitzkrieg against Ukraine on Feb. 24 and the situation fast turned into a full-blown war – the “Ukraine War” as future historians will no doubt call it – Impakter highlighted the most important breaking news from major sources (Reuters, AP, and others) over the first 2 days and will continue to update every morning here.

UPDATED March 8, 2022 –   Bullet point summary of major developments in the war TODAY as of 9 am CET:

War becomes more violent, bomb damages are substantial, 400 civilian lives lost (UNHCR source). Russia started the war on Ukraine on 3 fronts, north (from Belarus), east and south (from Crimea) on Feb 24 READ MORE about how the war on Ukraine started with Putin’s declaration on Monday, Feb. 21…

Today:

  • Russian offensive “slows” say Ukraine authoritiesKyiv still expecting imminent attack and Mariupol continues under siege and resisting; conditions in Mariupol increasingly dire, with no food, water, heating or electricity. Attempts to evacuate people have failed for the 4th day in a row as Russians did not respect their own cease-fire; attack on Odessa awaited;
  • Russia’s promises of humanitarian corridors met with skepticism; recent Russian offer of corridors rejected by Ukraine as they led directly to Russia and Belarus;
  • IAEA reports second nuclear plant damaged by Russian invasion (near Kharkiv)
  • Refugees: Over 2 million Ukrainians have fled, including 1  million children, 4 million total expected by tomorrow; over one million in Poland (Un sources) READ MORE about refugees and the response of the EU and UK…Scandal developing around UK frosty reception to Ukrainian refugees, in stark contrast with rest of Europe: 250 thrown back yesterday; of over 5,500 online visa applications, only 50 accepted UK Guardian
  • The third round of peace talks held yesterday led to no results
  • In other news: Russia warns it could turn off gas pipeline to Germany; oil prices rise as US considers Russian oil import ban but no decision taken yet as Germany continues to object to a ban; Canada imposes new sanctions and EU getting ready to do same

Go to Impakter for the rest of the article and the latest newsclick here.

Hope to see you often on Impakter – check it out every day for updates and new articles, click here.

Comments Off on My Latest About the War in Ukraine

Filed under politics